What Is The Difference Between Affiliate and Referral Marketing

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With more and more people turning to digital marketing as the way they market their companies and make their money, many different types of marketing have become popular. But because there are different types of digital marketing, there can be a lot of confusion, especially when you’re looking at something like affiliate and referral marketing. 

These two digital marketing forms can be very lucrative but have many differences that could make one better for your business than the other. When you’re looking at these two types of digital marketing platforms, you want to have all the information at hand to decide which one is the better option for you. This can be done by utilizing your network (like the Affiliate Profits Club) or simply by researching and looking at the wide range of information online for you.

In this article, we will take a look at both affiliate and referral marketing and discuss the differences and similarities. Hopefully, by breaking this down, you will be able to make an educated decision that will be right for you and your digital marketing campaign.

Affiliate & Referral Marketing Defined

Before we discuss the differences and similarities of these two forms of digital marketing, it’s essential to understand what each exactly is. So let’s take a look at what each of these digital marketing strategies is defined as.

Affiliate Marketing

Though both of these types of marketing are very similar in some aspects, affiliate marketing doesn’t offer compensation for simply promoting the product. On the contrary, when you utilize this type of marketing strategy, the company pays the influencers or content creators in cash. 

What it boils down to is that the people promoting your product or services don’t necessarily have to be customers; they are simply looking to promote your product to earn a commission. This can be an excellent option for companies that are struggling with driving traffic to their website.

Referral Marketing

Referral marketing is best served alongside a word-of-mouth campaign. This means that you have customers who already exist and love the products and services you’re offering. They love it so much that they are willing to refer this product or service to their peers and friends. 

Basically, the individual providing the product and services has their followers or customers promote their brand and offer an incentive when they do so via a referral program. Sometimes these referral marketing programs deliver free products, or some offer cash.

The Differences Between Affiliate and Referral Marketing

When you dive into digital marketing, you’ll find a wide range of options when it comes to what type of marketing you should utilize. Sometimes the best option is to turn to your peers and see which option works for them. That means finding a network like the Affiliate Profits Club that can not only help you figure this out but give you the information you need to make your digital marketing business that much more successful. 

That being said, we’re going to look at the differences between affiliate and referral marketing so that you have a better understanding. This way, you will be able to make a more educated decision on which one is perfect for your business.

Here are the significant differences between the two.


Maybe the most significant difference is that you’re looking at a marketing strategy that works with existing customers and target audiences when looking at referral marketing. This is more of a word-of-mouth marketing tool.

On the other hand, affiliates look to promote someone else’s business, so the customer base is not your own. Once you have signed up to use affiliate marketing programs, you can create content to leak to these and earn your money that way.

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Method of Sharing

When you’re thinking about how you’re getting the message out about these programs, you find your audience or sharing the information is very different. Referral programs tend to work off of friends and family using direct channels like email or even social media. This is easily done in this type of marketing because you already have a relationship with the customer.

On the other hand, affiliate marketing utilizes a wide range of channels and relies on channels like newsletters and social media posts. On top of that, they can also be used in content like blogs or on websites.


Another significant difference is that when you’re looking at referral marketing, often, the rewards are delivered in the form of cashback, discounts, or even coupons. On the other hand, affiliate marketing is a commission-based platform that pays the affiliates in cash.

A Few Similarities

Though there is a wide range of differences, there are a few similarities that you should understand. Here are the two main similarities when it comes to affiliate and referral marketing:

  • Social Currency – Both marketing options rely on social currency, otherwise known as trustworthiness. You have to be able to stand behind your product to ensure that your customers are satisfied to maintain your reputation.
  • Consistent Strategies – No matter which option you choose, you’ll want to grow your business continually. Because of this, you will test out many different strategies to do so. Once you find the one that works for you, you can rely on it being consistent. Though there may occasionally have to be a few tweaks, there are set content and marketing strategies that are successful most of the time.

The Affiliate Profits Club is a network of like-minded people that you can use as a resource to help you build a lucrative affiliate marketing business. So make sure to sign up today! We are sure you won’t regret it!

Final Thoughts

There are a plethora of differences between affiliate and referral marketing. The final decision on which one works for you really depends on your business and where you’re at in your career. We hope that by looking at the similarities and differences, we have helped you in your decision-making process just a little.


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